UFC Fight Night 35: 5 Reasons to Watch

Dan HiergesellFeatured ColumnistJanuary 8, 2014

UFC Fight Night 35: 5 Reasons to Watch

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    Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports

    With welterweight Tarec Saffiedine's debut in the books, the UFC now turns to another former Strikeforce champion in Luke Rockhold.

    Fresh off a devastating knockout defeat at the hands of Vitor Belfort, Rockhold will try to right the ship opposite a very heavy-handed Costa Philippou at UFC Fight Night 35.

    The middleweight showdown is a great test for both budding contenders as they attempt to avenge disappointing 2013 campaigns.

    On top of that main event, other key bouts spark immediate intrigue. 

    Here are five reasons to tune in to Fox Sports 1 on Jan. 15 for some free Octagon brutality. 

5. Brenneman's Return

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    Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

    I know it doesn't seem like much, but Charlie Brenneman's return to the Octagon at UFC Fight Night 35 should be fairly exciting.

    Not for nothing, but since his departure back in 2012, Brenneman has racked off four straight victories in 2013 including three submissions.

    While he was more of a punching bag for the likes of Johny Hendricks and Erick Silva during his first UFC stint, "The Spaniard" has outstanding wrestling and grappling skills that should immediately cause problems his second time around. 

4. The Cuban Crippler

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    Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports

    Yoel Romero is quickly becoming a bona fide knockout artist.

    With hands of brick powered by nuclear fusion, the Cuban explosively dismantled Ronny Markes and Clifford Starks in 2013, earning one Knockout of the Night.

    As a naturally strong athlete capable of staying on his feet, the former Olympic wrestling standout will be a very dangerous man to stop in 2014.

    Former Strikeforce middleweight Derek Brunson better prepare for war. 

3. Team Alpha Male

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    Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports

    Ever since former knockout guru Duane "Bang" Ludwig took over head coaching duties for Team Alpha Male, the California squad has been practically unstoppable.

    Guys like Urijah Faber, Chad Mendes, Danny Castillo and Joseph Benavidez have all looked phenomenal. However, it's been former The Ultimate Fighter runner-up T.J. Dillashaw who has showcased unparalleled Octagon evolution.

    Even with a recent split-decision loss to a very underrated top contender in Raphael Assuncao, Dillashaw still turned in an outstanding 2013.

    The 27-year-old budding star should continue to produce on his feet and serve as an example of how one man can instantly better an entire team of athletes.

2. The Hawaiian's Rise

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    Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

    Brad Tavares flies under the radar. That's just what he's grown accustomed to doing.

    While it isn't the 26-year-old's fault that people continuously fail to catch on to his overall potential in the UFC middleweight division, the Hawaiian will finally have a chance to shine opposite Lorenz Larkin on Jan. 15.

    Larkin is most certainly his toughest opponent to date and one that will test every ounce of skill Tavares has accumulated over the years.

    If The Ultimate Fighter alum secures his fifth straight victory in a fairly open division, people better start taking notice. 

1. Rockhold's Redemption

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    Jason da Silva-USA TODAY Sports

    No matter how tentative and off-balance Luke Rockhold seemed in his UFC debut against Vitor Belfort in May, he's still an elite contender.

    Undefeated in Strikeforce, the former champion holds impressive victories over Ronaldo Souza, Keith Jardine and Tim Kennedy. He has displayed elite kickboxing skills along the way and the killer instinct to make frail opponents pay out of the you-know-what.

    Therefore, when he steps inside the cage at UFC Fight Night 35 opposite a very game Costa Philippou, don't be surprised if Rockhold dominates.

    At 29 years of age, the AKA standout remains one of the most promising commodities in the middleweight division. Not to mention his submission game is wildly effective.


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